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tuff-better-customer-experience

5 Ways Your Support and Marketing Teams Can Work Together For a Better Customer Experience

Better customer experience is a key growth advantage. In order to retain the customers you’ve worked so hard to acquire, you have to deliver.

With great power, comes great responsibility. Whether you want to attribute that quote to Voltaire or Peter Parker’s uncle in Spiderman, it’s true for anyone delivering customer support or working directly with customers.

Step 1 to building any product, agency, service, marketplace, etc., you need customers. You wouldn’t be able to offer a product or service without them. The people on your team who interact day-to-day with your customers can’t be placed in a silo where their only responsibility is to hit reply and send on customer queries. If this sounds like your customer support team now, you’re going to lose these customers.

A Marketing and Support partnership is incredibly powerful for a number of reasons. Below, we have a few detailed out with support from Kevan Lee, the Director of Marketing at Buffer and Dani Arnold, the former Director of Support at OpenTable.

#1: Support Should Inform Content Strategy

“In terms of partnership and influence, there are a couple ways where we’ve experienced a really great connection between marketing and support. The first is with knowledge share. For us, this comes in many forms, perhaps the most common is support informing the types of content we write about. We want to write content that solves problems for users, and our support team knows those problems better than anyone.” 

— Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing at Buffer

You support team is inundated on a daily basis with questions from customers. Use this to your advantage by implementing process for your support team to share these questions with your marketing team. This will make for the best content because your customer team has already validated that your customers are on the search for it. Creating useful information for your customers is a great experience but it also helps with organic search rankings if your customers are already searching for this information.

Trello is a great resource where your marketing and support teams can create a shared board and track the questions coming in. For example, Buffer is a tool that allows you to schedule social media posts across multiple networks with one click. Imagine the support team kept getting the question ‘How often should I post?’ alongside questions about setting up the schedule. By creating a card in Trello and tracking the number of times this question comes up and linking to the customer support email, the marketing and content team could then use this as a resource once they start writing.

#2: Collaborate on Creating and Updating Customer Personas

Both the marketing and customer support team can benefit from building customer personas. Both teams gather data and feedback from customers and can build profiles that help the company define its audience. Where the marketing team is likely to lean on data and analytics from tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Ads, the customer support team can supplement these customer data points with qualitative information — they can put a voice to the numbers.

At Tuff, when we start working with a new client to help them with customer acquisition, our first step is to do a deep dive into their support channels and communication to learn more about their current customers. What is the first question someone asks in live chat? What words do they use to describe their problems? How technologically advanced are they? These questions are important and your support team has all the information you need to answer these questions.

When you create customer personas, you can’t just share it once and set it aside. To continue using it as a resource, work the language into your meetings and conversations. A customer persona is represented by one person, say “Sally” to represent a larger customer base. When your customer support team is starting to get an influx of questions from “Sally” customers, they can let the marketing team know which then will let them better target “Sally”.

#3: Share Responsibility of Social Media Channels

“The second way to partner is with shared responsibilities. At Buffer, marketing and support share a social media engagement inbox; marketing gains a ton from the interactions that the support team has on social media posts, blog content, etc., and we’re able to form connections around a common part of both our jobs.”

 — Kevan Lee, Director of Marketing at Buffer

Using social media as a two way street, rather than a megaphone, can improve customer retention. A natural part of your marketing teams content strategy is going to be sharing that content on social media. You can’t just put your content out there and walk away, you need to be there to engage and discuss any questions or thoughts. Your content and social strategy will get better when you’re listening to qualitative the reactions people have to them rather than just ‘clicks’, ‘likes’, ‘shares’, etc.

By sharing social media responsibilities and regularly discussing this strategy, your support team can inform your marketing team on the reactions certain content is getting as well as provide feedback on how to improve.

#4: Supercharge Your Sales Cycle With Quick Feedback

“It’s really about shifting from “the cost center” to being seen as a partner. [Our support team] started reporting on other teams’ impact on our volume internally to help us with forecasting. But when we started to notice trends in regions, or specific sales reps or products, we decided to expand that reporting, we offered suggestions based on what we heard from the customers directly. This bloomed into quarterly feedback sessions, and the more facetime my team had with other areas of the company, it became easier to have them included and thought of as projects were developing rather than afterthoughts and na-sayers.” 

— Dani Arnold, former Director of Support at OpenTable

Once you’ve gained a new customer, moving forward, the majority of their interactions with your team are going to be with the customer support or success team. Depending on how your company acquires customers, their first questions as a new customer are a huge opportunity. If they talked to a sales agent on the phone, what questions went unanswered? If they signed up from a Facebook ad, what made them click? What is the problem your product or service is helping them solve?

Having your marketing and support teams working closely together, brings these questions to top of mind. If your support team is aware of the marketing teams goals, they can bring this into their work and how they communicate and learn from customers.

#5: Work Together on New Product or Feature Releases

The support team is there to do just that, support. It’s their job to be prepared for an influx of customer questions, remain flexible, and support customers.

At the same time, you can be strategic with when your marketing team releases a big announcement or launches a new feature or product. Maybe your support team is typically at full capacity on Thursday mornings. Depending on their weekend coverage, Monday morning might be better than Friday afternoon.

Whoever is managing any announcement to your customers from the marketing team, needs to include meeting with the support manager a number of times in the process. While timing of the announcement is a helpful to partner on, there are also a number of other areas to cover: what language do customer typically use when talking about this? What other questions might come up from announcing this that we can answer pro-actively, etc. It will also let your support team do some work in advance and have answer to expected questions already written up and ready to go. This is a great way to wow your customers.

Over to you…

Consistency when interacting with a company is a great way to promote an exceptional customer experience. By breaking down silos between teams and encouraging close collaboration, you’ll get this. If this isn’t happening already, have a member of your marketing and support team meet on a bi-weekly basis and start practicing these 5 tactics.

How does your marketing and customer support team work together? What’d we miss?

 

We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.

tuff-customer-retention-strategies

11 Customer Retention Strategies You Can Implement Today

What is customer retention and why should I care? Most people are familiar with the leaky bucket metaphor.

You have your trusty bucket that you’re rapidly filling with a hose. Things are going well, the bucket is filling up with water, until you start to notice the water is staying at the same level.

Then, all of a sudden, you’re losing water. Upon inspection, there are holes in the bottom and sides of the bucket. You might try to plug one of the holes with your finger, or, wrap a rag around the bucket but no matter what you do, the water escapes.

This is customer retention.

Or, rather, the relationship between marketing and customer retention gone wrong. Too often, companies are more concerned with acquiring customers and rapidly filling the bucket that they overlook what happens when a prospect becomes a customer. It’s the responsibility of everyone at the company to complement acquisition with retention.

To go further than metaphors, Bain & Company has found that “a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%”.

In the following section, we’ll share proven strategies we’ve utilized at Tuff and in past positions to increase customer retention and earn the right to growth.

Three men sitting on a couch watching a sports game.

How to improve customer retention

1. Know your target customer like the back of your hand

When you’re working day and night on a product or have your website imprinted on your brain, it can be easy to slip into subjective decisions and designs. You might prefer a certain font or color scheme and think it’s the right choice because it looks better to you. Sometimes, if your customer base is similar to yourself, this can work out okay. However, it’s a big risk.

It’s incredibly important to understand your customer(s) and the job they’re looking to have done. There is an unconscious bias called implicit egotism that explains a tendency of people to prefer things where they have a self-association. For example, if you have testimonials on your website, it’s important the people you have selected to highlight resemble your ideal customers. In order to do this, you need to take the time to identify your target customer and craft an experience tailored to them.

2. Explicitly communicate how you solve their problem

Buffer: “Fully manage all of your social media accounts in one place. No more wasting time, no more logging into multiple social accounts.” 

Evernote: “Organize your work and declutter your life. Collect everything that matters in one place and find it when you need it, fast.”

Mailchimp: “Give your customers a clear call to action. With MailChimp, you can create beautiful landing pages that make it easy for people to buy your products or join your list.” 

These three companies are leaders in their respective industries. Visiting their home pages, you can quickly scan and find these statements. In all three instances, they’re explicitly speaking to the problem a potential customer might have. With Buffer ‘no more wasting time’, with Evernote ‘declutter your life’, and with Mailchimp ‘make it easy for people to buy your products’. 

Our friends over at Buffer have written more on this in a post called ‘People Don’t Buy Products, They Buy Better Versions of Themselves’

3. Education > Sales

Your success is tied to your customer’s success. A relevant business metric here is Lifetime Value (LTV). The deeper a customer’s work depends on your service or product, the less likely they are to leave you. There’s a saying that ‘you shouldn’t celebrate a product update, celebrate adoption’. And this, really, comes down to communication and education. Do you have targeted in-app messages? What is your onboarding email series like? When is the last time you ran a survey to learn more about your customer’s needs?

4. Prioritize reducing friction over quick customer support

Education and LTV are much easier when you are building and improving a product to increase the core value to your customers. There are a number of companies that have had success through ‘surprise and delight’ gestures. These tend to get more coverage on blogs and in the news and can have a more viral tendency. According to research from Dixon, Toman, and DeLisi published in The Effortless Experience, the true driver of customer retention and loyalty is the ease of getting a problem solved. Is it extremely clear how a customer can get in touch with your support team? Are you letting them pick the support channel that works best for them or forcing them into a channel you’ve decided is best? 

5. Throw out the traditional support metrics

As a support lead, it can be really tempting to dedicate more time and energy to tracking and optimizing support metrics like response time, happiness score, etc. These are, of course, helpful to know but long term your customers want a product that works well and solves their problem. The traditional support metrics are more straightforward and depending on the culture of your team you may be receiving pressure to focus on them. But, you’ll have a larger impact, ideally reduce the volume of incoming support queries, and help create a product people need and want by focusing your energy on a solid customer <> product team relationship. This is key to great customer retention.

If you don’t have a process for tracking customer feedback and sharing it with your product team, stop reading this article right now and start building it. Open up Trello and create three columns for: ‘bug report’, ‘product feedback’ and ‘product confusion’. Add a new card to the ‘bug report’ column when there is a repeatable issue with your website, a new card under ‘product feedback’ when a customer writes in with explicit feedback or a feature request, and a new card under ‘product confusion’ when you get the ‘how do I…?’ questions. 

Empower your support agents to prioritize asking an extra question to learn more about your customer’s needs rather than focusing on response time.

6. But, still focus on great customer support

It might be a little extreme of us to suggest throwing out traditional support metrics. They have a place and are helpful information but they can’t be your north star. One actionable strategy we’ve seen have a huge impact on retention is related to tracking customer feedback. When you are tracking customer feedback in one location, you have an automatic checklist of customers to follow up with when your team has acted on their feedback. The customer took their time to explicitly let you know how your team could improve, send them a personalized email to let them know you heard them. When a customer feels heard, they’ll stick by you through anything.  

Bonus tip: Help Scout makes tracking feedback and following up super easy with their workflows

7. Test a chatbot

There’s never going to be a future where Artificial Intelligence totally takes over because humans and chatbots are good at different things. Leaning on our strengths and the strengths of chatbots can make for a powerful team. When a chatbot pilot program was initiated in a telco company, it could handle 82% of common queries in customer service. After 5 weeks of tweaking, analyzing, and optimizing by human agents, its success increased to 88%, according to Accenture. Chatbots can help you offer 24/7 support while also freeing up your support agents to handle the more emotionally-driven and empathy-requiring conversations. 

We’ve written more about how to run a chatbot experiment here

8. Use social as a two-way street

Your social media channels need to be more than a megaphone, amplifying your own message. Think about that person you know who is constantly talking about themselves, forgetting to ask about you or how your day was. Your customers want to be heard. Topo Designs, an outdoor apparel company, has someone on their team whose responsibility is to respond to comments and mentions on Instagram. All day long. The ROI might be a little harder to prove but this is how you build  loyal customers and advocates. 

9. Set customer-centric goals

It’s important to set goals and it’s even more important to keep them aligned with serving your customers. 

For example, your digital marketing team might be running a few Pay-Per-Click campaigns. It can be easy to fall into the trap of measuring success based on the number of clicks. And while clicks are really important, converted clicks are even more important. It means you’re helping the customer find the thing that solves their problem. 

Set all goals to rely on the customer’s success. 

10. Be intentional about how you speak about customers

This strategy takes more than one day, it’s a cultural adjustment. But, one you can immediately address and speak up agains. The way you speak about your customers is going to have an effect on how you treat them and how your company as a whole supports them. Do you hear people around your office talking about ‘that dumb customer’ or how they had to ‘deal’ with someone? You wouldn’t be in business without your customers. Even if it’s subconscious, speaking about your customers with anything but gratitude and respect will carry over to your teams interactions with them and how your team prioritizes customer needs. 

11. Marketing + Customer Support = BFF4L

This strategy here is really the big kahuna. All of the previous 10 strategies will be easier to implement when you de-silo your teams and make it easy for them to collaborate on behalf of the customer. 

Your marketing team is at the top of the bucket, filling it with water (customers). Your customer support team is inspecting the holes (reasons a customer is leaving).

While holes may be inevitable, they will get filled much quicker and better when these two teams work together. Empower the teams to work together through embedding a customer team member in marketing meetings, have your marketing team deliver support for an hour each week, no matter how you do it provide positive affirmation about the collaboration. 

At Tuff, we partner on both acquisition and retention strategy and implementation because we want to offer a damn good, leak-free bucket.

We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.